WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Boston police are searching for a missing, four year old girl, Amanda McCready.
She’s only been gone for three days, but as Captain Doyle (Freeman) points out, after the first day, the chances of finding the child alive falls by ninety percent.
Amanda’s aunt Bea (Madigan) and uncle Lionel (Welliver) don’t think the police are doing enough, so they hire private detectives Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angie (Monaghan) – partners at home and at work – to use their local street contacts to speed up the search.
Together, Patrick, Angie and the lead detectives on the case (Harris and Ashton) delve into a world of drug dealers, junkies, gangsters, paedophiles and other low-lives, in an attempt to find Amanda – but the true picture is even more murky than any of them could imagine.
And the deeper they dig, the wider the net they must cast to uncover the truth.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is based in the same working class neighbourhoods of Boston as Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, which was based on another book by the same author, Dennis Lehane.
It’s perhaps not unusual for an actor, known for his popcorn performances, to pick a deeper, darker subject when he pops behind the camera.
This is certainly a multi-layered story, but that’s given him all the more difficult a task for his directorial debut.
It starts as a film about a police investigation of a missing four year old girl – so reminiscent of the story of Madeleine McCann that the film’s release was delayed until the real-life events from the Algarve were no longer in the daily news.
But there follows a succession of false endings – it appears that this storyline is put to bed, but too soon for the film to be finished. Then there’s a search for another child. Then another twist. Then another ending. Then another twist, and so on.
The first hour or so of the film – the Madeleine McCann-esque search – is interesting and well-handled by all involved – and the deliberately questionable behaviour of Amanda’s mother is quickly distances this fiction from the reality we’re all familiar with.
The final half hour also raises some interesting questions – for us as well as the characters.
But the bit in between is a storyline and false-ending too far – the film drags. Maybe it’s an example of where a director should take liberties with his source material – what works in a book might become dead wood in a movie – but understandably, it’s a brave first-time helmer who makes such a grand decision.
Amy Ryan is thoroughly deserving of her Oscar nomination and Casey Affleck might have got one for this, had the Academy not already honoured him for The Assassination of Jesse James – he’s growing into a powerful acting force, overshadowing his brother’s screen presence with the oddly monotone mumbling of his delivery. As his girlfriend, Michelle Monaghan is given little to do but look nice, which she does without any difficulty. Ed Harris is a little over-the-top and Morgan Freeman is a touch on the worthy side.
Ben Affleck has made an admirable stab at his directorial debut – it’s a powerful thriller with twists that will keep you interested and plenty to think about afterwards – but there are times where it strays a little too much from believability and grows tiresome as too many otherwise irrelevant supporting characters are asked to carry the plot for too long.
opens nationwide 6th June 2008